How To Sell Antiques
A quick guide to selling antiques and collectibles. A lot of people think of eBay as the place to sell antiques, but there are more options. This page explains how to sell antiques in 7 different ways.
The list below is in order based on the portion of the value you will receive for your antiques. For example, you'll almost always get more when selling to a collector than to a dealer. I say almost always because sometimes people get excited or make mistakes. I've seen antiques sell at local auction houses for more than they were worth.
Now lets look at each option in turn. . .Option 1
How To Sell Antiques Directly To A Collector
This method of selling will always bring the highest prices because the buyer wants to keep the item. Another advantage of this method is there aren't any fees involved.
The disadvantages of selling to a local collector are you need to know what your antiques are worth, it might take time to find a buyer, and you'll need to meet with the buyer. If you're not comfortable inviting strangers to your home, meet somewhere else.
You'll need to find a collector in your area by running a free ad on Craigslist, or a paid ad in your local paper. If you're in an area where they still have weekly classified papers like the Pennysaver, Thrifty Nickel, or Custom Shopper an ad is cheap and effective.
You can also find local collectors by having a garage sale. Post ads on Craigslist for your garage sale, and in the local papers. Don't forget to put signs up around the neighborhood.
One warning here. When you post an ad on Craigslist for a yard sale, you'll get emails pitching you ads on yard sale listing sites. These paid ads on small sites aren't worth doing because few shoppers use the sites. I don't know of anyone who uses a yard sale directory site who doesn't also look at Craigslist.
If one of your friends has expressed interest in your collectibles, contact him first. Many of the trains in my collection came from my friends. As I've downsized my collection, I'm calling friends who expressed interest in specific items.
Sometimes I don't complete the sale because my friends want to pay less than I can get elsewhere, but sometimes even when they offer slightly less than I could get elsewhere, I'll do the deal because it's easy, and in other selling avenues I have costs that lower my profits.Option 2
How To Sell Antiques At A Flea Market Or Antique Show
Flea markets and antiques shows can be a good place to sell antiques. I say can be because it really depends on your location. Here in AZ there aren't any flea markets where people sell used items, instead we have swap marts vendors sell new imported garbage to poor folks.
If you're lucky and have a flea market near you, be sure and check it out. Flea Markets are just a good place to sell antiques, they can also be quite fun.
Antique shows a little different than flea markets, but not too much so I'll consider them together. The buyers might be a little different with antique show attracting people more likely to buy than the flea market.
Some advantages of selling at shows are they can be cheap and a good place to meet buyers. A local show will cost you only a small fee for a space or table. Because you meet buyers face-to-face you have a greater chance of selling them other things.
Some disadvantages of selling at shows you might not sell anything, theft, and, if you don't have willpower, you might buy more than you sell.
Here's an article on selling at antique shows and flea markets.Option 3
How To Sell Antiques Through A Specialized Auction House
By specialized here I mean an auction house that only sells specific antiques and collectibles. The house can specialize in a single type of item for example Stout Auctions sells only toy trains, or a range of items like Heritage Auctions sells coins, stamps, comic books, and other small collectibles.
There are also auction houses that sell antiques but don't specialize. They are usually local houses that hold antique sales periodically through-out the year. If you're selling furniture or a small number of items worth between $50 and 500 these houses can be a good option, but will rarely bring the money of a more specialized auctioneer.
Your antiques will only be attractive to an auctioneer if they are expensive or you have a large collection of them. A few expensive items will be accepted and added to a future auction, while a collection will be run as the basis for an full day auction.
A specialty auction house will charge you between 10 and 20% of the selling price and may also charge you a fee for printing catalogs. These costs are negotiable and better quality antiques will get lower fees.Option 4
How To Sell Antiques On eBay
If your antiques are small and easy to ship selling them on eBay may be the way to go. Other considerations are how easy you can describe them using keywords buyers search by, and the number of buyers and sellers of the items.
For example, unmarked costume jewelry is difficult to sell on eBay because it's hard to get noticed in the thousands of listings. Costume jewelry with makers names like Trifari, and Miriam Haskel is easier to sell because there are collectors searching for those brand names.
If you haven't sold on eBay, start by listing a few inexpensive items. This way you can make mistakes without loosing a lot of money. See Learn How To Sell On eBay For Beginners for more detailed information.
Selling on eBay will cost you between 8 and 12% of the selling price in fees. This includes eBay and PayPal fees.
You can also have someone else sell your antiques for you on eBay. This will run you between 20 and 50% of the selling price. See my article on Using a Trading Assistant for more information.Option 5
How To Sell Antiques To A Dealer
Selling your antiques to a dealer is a quick way to turn them into cash. Look in the yellow pages for dealers who specialize in the items you have. Call a few dealers and they will lead you through the process.
Typically a dealer will pay you between 40 and 70% of what he thinks your antiques are worth. This isn't always true though, so shop around. You should talk to at least two dealers before selling your items, and NEVER let a dealer buy one or two items and leave.
Years ago, I offered a woman $200 for a set of trains. She said she'd think about it, and called me a week later to tell me she'd take my offer. I went out and looked at the trains and there was only $150 worth of trains there. It turned out she'd sold a single piece that was worth $150 to another dealer for $15. He'd told her it wasn't worth much, but he'd like it for his train layout.
I've read a few articles over the years by reporters who shop gold buyers. The reporters take the same items around and get offers. There is usually a wide spread between the highest and lowest offer. This confirms that you need to talk with a few dealers.
Remember the antique dealer makes his money by buying your items for as little as he can. Let the dealer know you're taking offers and then sell to the best offer.Option 6
How To Sell Antiques With A Local Auction House
Selling antiques through a local auction how is quite easy. You can find auctioneers in the yellow pages, and then go check out a few of their auctions. Obviously you don't want to use an auctioneer who specializes in cars or business liquidations to sell collectibles, but you also want to avoid houses that sell lots of box lots.
Auctioneers that sell lots of box lots, don't get good traffic from people who will pay near retail prices for antiques and collectibles. Box lots are boxes of household items that come out of storage lockers, estate sales, and households that are sold with minimal sorting and cataloging. It's just a box with stuff in it.
You want an auctioneer who displays items in cases or on tables because they are more likely to attract antique dealers and collectors. You'll pay 10-20% of the selling price, and the auctioneer might even pick the items up from you.Option 7
How To Sell Antiques To A Pawn Shop
A pawn shop is the last place you should consider when selling antiques. Twenty years ago a pawn shop was likely to give you more money than a dealer or collector because they didn't know what the items were worth.
Today it's simple to find out what items are worth by searching completed auctions on eBay. This means pawn shops can quickly discover the value of an item, and make you an offer. Because the pawn shop doesn't specialize in antiques, the offer will be lower to account for additional risk.
A few weeks ago I looked at some Lionel trains. The seller had just come from a pawn shop who had looked up a few of the items and then offered half of the value for everything.
Let me be clearer here so you get the idea. The seller had 14 Lionel engines, and 62 cars. The pawn shop looked up the value of one engine - $300, and 3 cars - $45 on eBay, and offered $175 for EVERYTHING. That's pretty pathetic. I didn't buy the stuff, but the would have paid about 5 times that.
That's 7 ways to sell antiques. Remember, you'll usually be better off letting the buyer talk himself into buying your item. Don't try to hard sell your items, just let the buyer talk himself and you into the deal.
Many of the articles and free reports here on IWantCollectibles were originally sent to readers of my Antiques and eBay Newsletter. Not all articles make it onto the website, and readers also get notices of free reports and special offers.